Citizen journalism was critical in the Arab Spring over the past year as ordinary people used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and other social media to push new ideas, organize protests, and document the atrocities of long entrenched dictatorships. Now they’re getting a more formal outlet with the start up of CitJo, a portal that will connect bloggers and videographers with official media agencies around the world. While this hasn’t gotten much notice outside the Middle East, it is an innovative approach to a question that remains unresolved in the West (try asking the New York City Police Department who is a journalist). The portal will allow citizen journalists to sell their work under a variety of copyright licenses, giving some of them a potential revenue stream.
According to Mahamad El Tanahy, Managing Director of CitJo,
Our aim is to provide an easy way for citizen journalists to get their word out and generate revenue. We’re looking to provide all the features necessary to make citizen journalists’ lives easier, starting with a migration of the service to Arabic, launching an online payment service, and much more to come.
It will be interesting to see how this develops, especially if some of the participants begin to be noticed for their work. And there are challenges to be resolved – are news agencies going to accept submissions that are not edited, fact-checked, or screened? Will they be willing to pay for videos if other people are making videos of the same events freely available on YouTube? And there may be competition from existing citizen journalism sites – AlJazeera’s Your Media, for example – that take submissions but do not offer payment.
It’s a fascinating experiment. Check out the CitJo website – it’s nicely done and will give you a glimpse of an innovative journalism experiment in action.